They're the first to acknowledge that they make an unlikely foursome. A Polish artist's daughter and three artists representing America, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic have forged an alliance to advance their individual creative visions — after hooking up on the Internet.
The new friends, all co-organizers of Art Promotion Together on meetup.com, "just jelled," said Eva Skrenta, a Columbia resident who joined to showcase her father's work.
When their art is displayed together, any questions about what connects their seemingly disparate worlds quickly fade away. A passion for bold colors and a flair for abstract expressionism unite the works, forming a cohesive, if unexpected, whole.
Art admirers will have the opportunity to judge for themselves when the group holds its first combined exhibit, titled Cross-Continental Connection, scheduled Nov. 8 and 9 at Tatu, an Asian-fusion restaurant in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
Skrenta's late father, Jerzy Kajetanski, was a native of Poland and a longtime Wilde Lake resident who displayed his work in Howard County. Skrenta has managed over the past several years to get some of his work into the Museum of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland.
But she found herself longing for greater regional exposure for his art, which runs the gamut from war scenes to landscapes of Wilde Lake and styles in between.
"I felt I had saturated Howard County with my father's artwork and that I would like to show his paintings elsewhere," Skrenta said.
Enter artist Ellen Baer, a New York resident whose late mother, Joyce, was a community activist in Columbia, and who was acquainted with Skrenta. Baer invited Skrenta to join a group she was launching in February on meetup.com, a website where people with shared interests come together.
Federico "Anthony" Ruiz, who lived in the Dominican Republic as a child, and Francisca "Frankie" Alika of Nigeria eventually joined the pair, cementing the four-way collaboration.
"We saw each other's work online, and let's just say none of it is paintings of other people's pets," Skrenta observed.
Aside from advocating joint exhibits — which aren't uncommon in the art world — Baer's concept for the group calls for members to support each other's individual career goals and to work together on the "tedious task" of art promotion, she said.
"Nobody else is doing this," Baer said. "It's also about doing the nitty-gritty work, like writing an artist's statement."
A photographer and a painter have become active in the group since the Tatu event was organized, Baer said. Forty-three other artists have added their names to an open invitation to join at meetup.com, but have yet to become active participants.
Mike Ferger, Tatu's general manager, said the restaurant especially likes to support "up-and-coming artists who are trying to make it.
"This is the first time the four of them have grabbed the bull by the horns and collaborated, and I'm excited to see what happens with this group," he said.
Ruiz observed that people feel some art galleries give off "a high society aura" that can be intimidating. A showing at Tatu, which also features such acts as aerialists and fire eaters, is "a more casual and inviting way" to introduce people to their art for the first time, he said.
Alika, who lives in Hyattsville and has only been in America for three years, said she'd been searching for "a group with a vision and a mission."
"I had something in the back of my mind, and I got a good feeling that this [group] is what I've been looking for," she said. "We want to exhibit and grow together as a force."
Though their abstract art shares a common visual impact through color, the artists' techniques and viewpoints differ.